What is ANSI?
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is an organization that works to set new standards for a wide variety of businesses and industries. Their goal is to not only improve the American quality of life for consumers and employees, but also to create products that are competitive with other companies and manufacturers around the world. ANSI was established in 1918 and created the first American Standard Safety Code in 1921.
In the early days, ANSI was mostly concerned with preventing workplace accidents. In fact, their first major accomplishment was advocating for new practices that would protect worker’s eyes and heads in factory settings. As technology continue to expand and more homes became equipped with appliances, ANSI expanded their vision to address the growing safety concerns facing consumers.
By the 1980s, ANSI once again underwent a major evolution as businesses began to understand the need for international standards in order to appeal to foreign markets. As trade continued to expand and become more global, ANSI began working more closely with counterpart organizations including the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) .
Today, ANSI is committed to making sure that all products, that are part of a global supply chain, provide American consumers with safe products that are also energy efficient and environmentally friendly. ANSI continues to expand and evolve as technology, manufacturing and global markets change. This allows workers and consumers to know that they are being actively protected against hazards at work and at home.
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What is BIFMA?
The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) is another organization that works to develop safety and performance standards for businesses in order to drive innovation and collaboration. While ANSI covers a wide range of industries, including office furniture, BIFMA is exclusively dedicated to the commercial furniture industry.
BIFMA was founded in 1973 as a non-profit trade organization that focuses on educating consumers, monitoring the implementation of national codes, advocating for sustainable products and practices and forecasting market trends. Their efforts have continued to push the industry and make a positive impact on the global furniture market.
Are ANSI and BIFMA Government Organizations?
You might be surprised to learn that both ANSI and BIFMA are non-profit organizations that set voluntary standards. Furniture manufacturers are not required to meet the standards set forth by these organizations, but it is ultimately in their best interest to become a member of these organizations and work with them to help the industry progress.
While ANSI and BIFMA are not under the direct supervision of the government, they do work closely with various departments to share knowledge and collaborate on setting new standards. The U.S. government and these voluntary organizations enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship in large part because they share common goals that include consumer protection. This collaborative environment also allows for the free flow of information between different organizations, which is a driving force behind innovation.
How Does a Product Receive a ANSI/BIFMA Rating?
In order to for a piece of office or commercial furniture to receive a ANSI and BIFMA rating, it is put through a rigorous set of tests that have been specially designed and developed by experts. These tests are meant to measure safety, performance and sustainability. Each piece of furniture, manufacturing facility and company must meet a strict set of standards before it can receive a ANSI or BIFMA rating.
Office furniture is awarded points in four categories that include: materials, energy and atmosphere, human and ecosystem health and social responsibility. Based on the number of points awarded, BIFMA offers three levels of rating:
- Level 1: The first tier of certified performance
- Level 2: Certifies that additional levels of performance have been achieved
- Level 3: The highest level that can be awarded
How Do I know if a Product Has Earned a ANSI/BIFMA Rating?
Companies work hard to meet ANSI and BIFMA ratings, so you will find that the fact that they have received a rating is prominently advertised. This information should be available on the product’s website and on any packaging materials. Look for the ANSI and BIFMA logos on any office furniture that you are considering purchasing. If you aren’t sure about what rating the products you are looking at have earned, be sure to ask a salesperson or representative.
Why Should I Care about ANSI and BIFMA Ratings?
Keep in mind that membership in these organizations and undergoing testing in order to earn a rating is totally voluntary. While there are certainly plenty of laws and regulations that govern different industries, the highest standards are set by these types of trade organizations. When you purchase a piece of office furniture that has received a ANSI and BIFMA rating, you know that you are investing in a safe and sustainable product that meets strict standards for performance.
As a business owner or manager, you are responsible for creating a safe and healthy work environment. ANSI and BIFMA rated office furniture helps you meet these goals by providing options that do not release toxins into the air and are designed to prevent injuries. Ultimately, a safe office means better productivity and fewer absences due to illness.
In addition, you will know that the manufacturing facility meets certain standards for safety, which means that the workers are adequately protected and the company is known for supporting industry best practices. Not only will you be getting the absolute best products on the market, you will be participating in ethical and conscientious consumerism.
With so many options on the market, the best way to narrow down your choices is to look for the ANSI and BIFMA logos. This provides you with a clear indication of a certain level of quality right from the start. From there, you can begin to look at other specific features and still know that without having to worry about whether you are investing in a safe product that has been tested. As mentioned above, if you are ever unsure whether a product is ANSI/BIFMA rated, don’t hesitate to ask. Doing a little research will be well worth the effort.